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How to win in the 'age of women'

Women cannot possibly have it all if our professional values and inner values aren’t closely allied and aligned.

The following is an excerpt from Mika Brzezinski’s new book Grow Your Value.

It doesn’t feel emotionally acceptable to say this out loud, especially for women. We’re the ones who are supposed to be making the feminist dream come true. We don’t want to fall short. We don’t want our kids to live through anything remotely like what we did. After all, 40 percent of children under eighteen growing up in the 1980s were latchkey kids, wearing the keys to their homes around their necks so they could let themselves in after school because no parent was at home — often, it was their single, working moms who were absent. We don’t want our kids to feel abandoned because of our careers, the way we did, for better or for worse. Who wants to admit this? Only some working women are willing to say “having it all” isn’t going as planned — to the not-insignificant tune of one in four.

Still, to admit that there are problems with that premise takes real guts. In a period of US history fast becoming the Age of Women, I think it takes a lot of courage to say publicly: “This isn’t working for me.” Interestingly, however, our poll did ferret out a lot of “this isn’t working for me” responses by rephrasing the question. When they were asked whether or not they enjoy being the breadwinner, fully two-thirds (63 percent) of female breadwinners said they don’t enjoy being the primary earner or that it is a “mixed bag,” compared with four in ten male breadwinners (38 percent). Not only that, but female sole earners are twice as likely as male sole earners to say that their role as the breadwinner in the relationship is a “mixed bag” or one they do not enjoy (79 percent versus 39 percent). My guess? Women are, as Susie said, working twice as hard to stay in the same place.

That does not sound like “having it all” to me. Women cannot possibly have it all if our professional values and inner values aren’t closely allied and aligned. For some of us those values do coexist and intertwine — even if it has taken a lifetime so far to get there.

Me, for example. I spent decades trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be at work and then having nothing left when I got home. I had no sense of my professional or inner worth. After years of trial and lots and lots of error, now what I do for a living is very much me. I am myself on Morning Joe. I am very much myself in passing along the message to women of knowing and growing your value. It’s in doing this work that my values converge. Helping women talk and learn about this is something that I do not just for the sake of expanding business, but because it is a natural facet of who I am. Writing books about women’s value and helping them get what they’re worth. Hosting live conferences, where real women join me onstage to struggle through articulating their value. My professional bona fides as a straight-dealing (and kind of funny, or so I’ve been told) news talk-show host overlaps with the part of my inner calling that cares about working women, empathizes with them, and wants deeply for them to flourish. In this area of my life I can honestly say that I feel successful.